StockMarketWire.com - UK stock markets trimmed earlier gains but remain in the black after the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a measured assessment of the new coronavirus in China and its potential impact.

The WHO called the outbreak 'an emergency in China' but resisted any temptation to declare it an epidemic of international concern.

That seems to have eased some investor concerns about the potential impact that the virus could exert on China and the rest of the global economy.

The benchmark FTSE 100 index had nudged around 11.5 points, or 0.15%, ahead around midday to 7,423.52.

Middle East private hospitals operator NMC Health headed the FTSE 100 leader board, adding 2.5% at £13.935. Spirits and Guinness firm Diageo and fashion house Burberry top the FTSE losers, with China a big market for both, down around 2.3% to 2.5% apiece.

The mid cap FTSE 250 made similar gains to the blue-chips, up .01% at 21,324.72.

WOODFORD FUND STARTS PAYOUT

There are around 300,000 investors still stuck in Neil Woodford's former flagship Equity Income fund but they have been told today how much money they can expect in their first payout since the fund was suspended last June.

Link Fund Solutions, which took over the fund, has written to investors this morning detailing payments of between 46p and 59p per share, depending on what kind of shares they hold.

Investors should get the cash in their bank accounts on Thursday, although those that used investment platforms will have to wait a little longer for the payment to be processed.

One of the bigger market movers today is Irn-bru maker AG Barr after it guided for full year profit towards the top end of market forecasts. This is being taken as a sign of progress on efforts to turnaround its business following a challenging summer.

AG Barr shares jumped 14% to 621p.

Food delivery company, and takeover target, Just Eat dipped 0.2% to 853.6p despite forecasting earnings within the top end of its expectations and confirming a delivery partnership with fast food chain McDonald's.

Over-50s focused services group Saga saw its share price rally more than 5% to 41.1p after guiding for an annual underlying profit performance in line with previous expectations despite 'a challenging external environment' in the insurance and travel markets.

Water utility Severn Trent nudged 0.5% lower to £25.67 after it said it expected to raise its annual dividend at least in line with the UK inflation rate, estimated this year at around 1.5%.

House builder Crest Nicholson leapt nearly 5% to 461.2p despite reporting a fall in profit.

Crest Nicholson said it had sold fewer homes at lower prices amid a shift in focus to more affordable housing.

VIRGIN MONEY MARGINS STEADY

Virgin Money UK gained 3.7% to 171.55p despite its mortgage book shrinking in the first quarter, though its interest margins stabilised and deposit and business lending volumes grew.

Imperial Leather soap maker PZ Cussons reversed earlier losses to add 0.2% to 195p despite reporting a fall in underlying first half profit. This was blamed on tough trading conditions in Nigeria and weakness in Australia and the UK.

Retirement home developer and manager McCarthy & Stone added 1.2% to 155.8p, even as it booked a 25% fall in annual profit, citing a challenging market backdrop and strategic structural changes.

Mortgage advisory group Mortgage Advice Bureau lost some of its earlier strength but still rallied close on 9% at 758p as its annual revenue rose 16%, though it also said that political uncertainty related to Brexit had lowered per-adviser sales rates.

Convenience foods group Greencore weakened by 2% to 243.7p as its revenue rose a modest 1.8% in the first quarter.

Digital marketing and communications group Next 15 shed 2% to 512p, on warning that it would report a full-year adjusted profit marginally below its previous expectations.


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